Gambling has become an everyday part of life for many people in the modern era, whether it be in-person at a casino, bookmakers or from the comfort of your own home online.
In many countries around the world however, gambling is prohibited and bettors can face serious consequences if caught. Every country has separate laws with different levels of punishment issued if found guilty.
At Bitcoin Casinos, we have researched the countries across the world with the highest punishments for getting caught when illegal gambling.
Listed below are ten of the worst places to get caught gambling across the globe, where bettors can face significant jail time and heavy punishment.
- Singaporean gamblers face 7+ years in jail and £200,000 fine
- Chinese gambling Tycoon sentenced to 18 years in prison
- North Korean citizens will be prosecuted for gambling, only tourists allowed at licensed casinos
- Illegal gambling in Japan carries a £3,000 fine
- Popular internet figure in Thailand jailed for 54 years for gambling crimes
In the United Kingdom, the 2005 Gambling Act carries a number of hefty fines if broken. Cheating, attempting to cheat or assisting another person to cheat at gambling results in 51 weeks imprisonment and/or a £5,000 fine.
In the United States, mobile sports betting is now legal in 26 states. The punishment varies across the country and restrictions are in place. For example, North Dakota has a limitation of $25 per individual hand, game or event. Betting over $25 is an infraction and it becomes a misdemeanour when the amount exceeds $500.
Offshore gambling is illegal in Poland and only Polish-licensed gambling is legal under the country’s Gambling Act. Over 15,000 gambling websites are blocked and unable to be accessed due to the country’s strict laws.
In 2021, Poland’s Ministry of Finance and National Revenue Administration issued a warning to residents that illegal gambling could carry a fine of up to £850,000.
Under article 23 of Poland’s fiscal penal code, fines can cover the entire total of any winnings plus the money staked or lost.
Penalty: Up to £850,000 fine
No locally authorised casinos or betting sites exist in Qatar. The law penalises gamblers with a term of imprisonment for up to three months and a £700 fine.
Running a gambling organisation is punished with up to a year of imprisonment and a £1,000 fine. If you are caught with gambling apps on your phone or electronic device, it is likely to be confiscated.
Qatar has integrated Islamic culture into its laws and tourists visiting the country for the 2022 FIFA World Cup were unable to place any bets during the competition.
Penalty: 3 months imprisonment, £700 fine
Malaysia’s Police Force announced that they had arrested 905 people across the country in a two-week period for gambling crimes earlier this year.
Authorities seized over £100,000, but didn’t specify what type of gambling or betting was taking place. Gambling is illegal in Malaysia except for one casino – Resorts World Genting.
Kedah, a state in Malaysia, banned all forms of gambling including lotteries at the start of 2023. The Common Gaming Houses Act 1953 states that gamblers can receive monetary fines and up to six months in jail, even if they’re gambling in their own homes or at the home of a friend or family member.
Penalty: 6 months in jail and a fine
In December 2022, a popular internet identity was sentenced to 54 years in prison on illegal gambling offences.
30-year-old Siapo Po-arnon was one of 21 defendants charged with violating the Gambling Act and the Money Laundering Act by encouraging people to gamble on websites that he either ran or owned.
461 people were arrested In Thailand in 2022 for involvement in illegal online gambling websites. Betting is illegal in the country outside of the official lottery and a small number of horse racing tracks.
Thai authorities have argued that gambling runs against the principle of Buddhism, similar to many middle eastern countries and their Islamic laws.
Penalty: 1 year in jail, £25 fine
6: United Arab Emirates
In the United Arab Emirates, Islam is the official religion of the country meaning gambling is prohibited and illegal in all forms.
Illegal gambling carries a maximum sentence of up to two years in prison and/or a fine of £13,000. Although offshore websites are blocked by the country’s internet providers, residents are still able to access illegal gambling through proxy servers.
Anyone who runs an illegal gambling operation will be punished with imprisonment for a maximum period of ten years.
Horse racing is illegal to bet on in the UAE with two exceptions for the Nad Al Sheba and Jebel Ali racecourses. There are no licensed casinos in the country either, leading many to taking the risk online.
Penalty: 2 years in prison and/or £13,000 fine
5: North Korea
Despite being banned for North Korean citizens, two casinos exist in the country for the Chinese tourist market in Rason and the capital city Pyongyang.
Police in a Chinese city on the border with North Korea arrested ten North Korean trade workers for illegally gambling in 2021. The trade workers were reportedly betting 100 yuan (about £10) each.
Penalty: 3 years hard labour
Since the Communist Party took power in 1949, gambling in China has been illegal. All forms are outlawed, but illegal gambling is common throughout the country.
Gambling on anything, whether it be poker or other card games, sports betting, horse betting and lotteries are all illegal in China.
In 2010, The Telegraph reported that an estimated one trillion yuan (£117 billion) is wagered in illegal gambling every year in China.
Earlier this year, a Macau court sentenced Alvin Chau to 18 years in prison after being found guilty of 162 charges including enabling and operating illegal gambling services.
The court ordered Chau and his co-defendants to pay the government £678 million.
The Chinese Communist government operates two different lotteries, the Welfare Lottery and the Sports Lottery but the government does not legally consider this a form of gambling.
Penalty: 3 years in prison and a fine
Most forms of gambling in Japan are illegal, however several exceptions apply including betting on horse racing and certain motorsports. ‘Kōei kyōgi’ are public races that can be gambled on legally: horse racing, bicycle racing, powerboat racing and asphalt speedway motorcycle racing.
Illegal gamblers will face a fine of up to £3,000 whilst anyone who runs or operates a gambling ring faces imprisonment with a minimum period of three months and maximum five years.
In October 2022, Japan’s National Police Agency issued a warning to citizens and declared the use of offshore gambling sites as a crime. The warning read:
“Have you ever heard that using online casinos as an individual is legal as long as the site is operated legally overseas? Even if an online casino is operated legally overseas, connecting from within Japan and then gambling on the site is illegal. There is precedence of arresting online casino users for gambling-related crimes. Gambling is a crime. Stay away.”
The NPA said it made 18 arrests in 2019, 16 in 2020 and 16 in 2021 for gambling crimes related to online casinos.
Penalty: Minimum 3 months and maximum 5 years in prison, £3,000 fine
2: Hong Kong
During the recent World Cup, Hong Kong police arrested a 22-year-old man on suspicion of promoting bookmaking and seized over £150,000 in betting records during a raid on his home.
Officers discovered at least 16 accounts of an illegal gambling website on his phone and computer and bets were as high as tens of thousands of pounds. In Hong Kong, the offence is punishable by up to seven years in jail and a fine of up to £500,000.
Penalty: Up to 7 years in jail, up to £500,000 fine
Under the Gambling Control Act 2022, anyone who is found to be involved in unlawful betting operations in Singapore shall be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of £200,000 and imprisoned for up to five years. Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to ten years and fined up to £700,000.
Under the same Act, any person who gambles with an unlawful gambling service or provider shall be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of £10,000 and imprisoned for up to six months.
In November 2022, the Singapore Police Force arrested 12 people for their suspected involvement in illegal gambling activities. Cash amounting to more than $8,250, five mobile phones and gambling-related paraphernalia were seized.
As of December 2022, over 2,400 people had been arrested in Singapore for illegal gambling since 2019. Large gatherings of punters have been reported in the past year for illegal gambling on horse racing, often taking place in coffee shops and car parks.
A 66-year-old cleaner was jailed for two weeks and fined £20,000 for taking illegal bets on horse racing. He was convicted of receiving bets worth just over £100.
Penalty: Up to 10 years in jail and up to £700,000 fine
A spokesperson for Bitcoin Casinos commented on the data, “Illegal gambling is a serious crime in many parts of the world which comes with harsh punishments. Singapore shows no mercy when it comes to this and repeat offenders are looking at a maximum of 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $700,000.
EU member Poland is a surprising addition on this list and any residents caught using offshore sites can face a fine up to $850,000”